Five Bizarre Titles on Ye Olde Beatles Bookshelf
Hi. My name is Bob, and I am a Beatles fanatic.
Classic Rock Bob in 1999 on a pilgrimage to Abbey Road studios. The black hair is gone, but he can still fit into the shirt.
This won't come as any surprise to my friends and family, for whom I am a very, very easy mark for a Christmas or birthday gift: "Just get him something Beatles-related." The first 33 rpm LP I ever bought in 1978 was -- I'm pretty sure -- Meet the Beatles. Though it may have also been Shaun Cassidy; hey, I was a big "Hardy Boys" admirer.
For years, I wore a black armband to school on December 8, the day John Lennon was shot. As a young teen, I once wrote Yoko Ono a letter telling her I didn't think she was responsible for breaking up the band. She must have been very, very relieved by this bit of information, as she responded with a real hand-signed Christmas card.
My senior-class project in high school was on the history of the band and included my own music video starring friends for "A Day in the Life." It was shot at least somewhat fortuitously on the day after my car accidentally burst into flames in front of my parents' house, lending a realistic air to the car-crash scene.
I have been to Beatles conventions. I spent more time studying for a Beatle trivia contest than I did some college courses. And on my two trips to England, I made sure that a Beatles tour, stop at Abbey Road studios, and side trip to Liverpool were non-negotiable stops on the agenda.
I've also collected a lot of stuff about the band over the years. But my favorite thing to look at is probably my dedicated Beatles Bookshelf, with more than 100 titles and counting.
It's not surprising that what I have is only a fraction of the books written about the band in the past five decades, but what is surprising are some of the titles I've found. Here, then are the five most offbeat memoirs into printed Beatleology I have.
The Man Who Gave the Beatles Away
By Allan Williams and William Marshall, 1975
Williams was a local Liverpool promoter, clubowner and music gadfly when almost by default he became the Beatles' first managerial figure...because he was an "adult."
When not booking them at his coffeehouse/strip joint, the Jacaranda, he made arrangements for their first trip to play clubs in Hamburg, Germany, which most Beatleologists maintain was crucial to their musical, personal and, well, sexual development.
But the band -- perhaps seeing Williams as more of a provincial force unable to handle their lofty aspirations -- refused to pay him for any work, despite his fronting them quite a bit of money. The more urbane and wealthy Brian Epstein came knocking to take control of their career, and a frustrated Williams let the band go. "Don't touch them with a fucking bargepole," he told Epstein. "They will let you down."
And while the book's title became Williams' unofficial sobriquet the rest of his life, he tells a grittier tale of the pre-collarless-suit group (including Stu Sutcliffe and Pete Best) and the Fabs' personalities and proclivities. Now 83, Williams no longer is able to participate in Beatles conventions, but his book is a crucial if sometimes self-serving look at the early days.
Loving John: The Untold Story
By May Pang and Henry Edwards, 1983
Imagine May Pang's dilemma in 1973 when she was watching her employers' -- John Lennon and Yoko Ono -- marriage fall apart. But the 22-year-old employee's tale got even weirder when the couple decided on a trial separation, leading Lennon to take off for California, and Ono's directive that Pang accompany him to not only watch him, but become his lover.
The 18 months Lennon and Pang spent in L.A. become known as the famous "Lost Weekend" of Beatles lore, punctuated by drunken binges with celebrity friends, aborted and semi-aborted attempts at recording music, and strange days with Phil Spector. With Ono on the phone constantly checking in.
The book gives one of the most detailed accounts of "The Lost Weekend" by someone who was not only there, but sometimes the only sober one in the room. In the narrative, Pang maintains that she and Lennon formed a real love and he was ready to cut Ono off entirely -- until she felt which way the wind was blowing and ordered him home, which he dutifully did.
Now 63, Pang is reportedly close to Lennon's first family, Cynthia and Julian, and appears at Beatles events. She later published a book of her photos from the period, Instamatic Karma, and reportedly ran into Ono briefly in 2006 at the unveiling of a Lennon tribute sculpture in Iceland.
More Beatle books on the next page.